I was first introduced to the idea of growing my own coffee by my grandpa.
One day while showing me around his yard, Grandpa suggested I eat a small red fruit that he called a cherry. Now, it didn’t look like any cherry I had ever seen before, but he assured me that it was safe to eat.
So cautiously, and a little unsure if this was a joke, I took a bite. It was quite sweet and didn’t actually taste all that bad. Seeing my confusion, Grandpa quickly explained that I had just eaten coffee. A coffee cherry to be exact.
This just confused me more. At this stage in my life, all I knew of coffee was that it was a strange looking brown drink that adults had after meals – not at all like this ‘cherry’ and definitely not something that I was interested in drinking. But the idea of growing coffee stuck with me.
Recently, it seems to be all the rage to grow your own herbs, fruit and veggies, but most people don’t even consider growing coffee. It’s an exotic product from places like Brazil or Indonesia or Africa. But you can also grow your own coffee right in your own backyard here in Queensland.
The first step is to find yourself a tree.
My first tree was a descendent of my Grandpa’s tree. It was a Robusta plant which is the hardier of the two main varieties of coffee grown commercially. Robusta is easier to grow and it grows in more varying climates, but it produces harsher flavours in the cup. Unfortunately, my first tree died unceremoniously in the care of a family member while I was out of the country.
The second time around I decided to give the Arabica plant a try. I knew this was the generally preferred variety, but wasn’t exactly sure how it would go considering I was attempting to grow it on a small balcony on the Gold Coast not two blocks from the ocean, when usually Arabica enjoy the higher altitude of growing on the sides of mountains and volcanos.
I found my tree at a local nursery – nowadays you can find both Arabica and Robusta trees at your local nursery and even most Bunnings or Masters stock them for as little as $13.
The second step is to do your best to look after the tree.
I watered mine EVERY day and fertilised it weekly with liquid fertilisers.
Amazingly, on my little balcony plot, my tree was very happy and healthy – I guess it was the altitude of living on the first floor! After only a year it had grown taller than me, to nearly two metres!
And then one morning in early Spring I came out to find my tree covered in little buds.
In the coming days these bloomed into little white flowers that smelt strongly of jasmine. Surprisingly, within two days of blooming, the flowers shrivelled and died.
A month or so later, I noticed that where the flowers had bloomed, the remaining bud was beginning to swell. At first they were the size of a pin head, but then grew larger into small fruit. It was then in the early summer of that year that the fruit started to change colour. From green, to yellow, orange and then red.
After much Googling I confirmed the best time to harvest was as they were bright red or even scarlet. So harvest I did! And occasionally I would bite into one of those cherries that I had grown for myself and remember the day that Grandpa introduced me to the amazing world of coffee growing.
Processing and then roasting the coffee beans are the next steps – but we’ll save them for another time!
So whether you’re a coffee geek like me and want to try your hand at some amateur coffee production, or you think that a little coffee tree growing in your café window might be a nice reminder of where the coffee’s journey all began – from tree to cup – you too can grow your own coffee.
– Article written by a Redmako Learning Trainer